Yes, I know there are an overwhelming number of deadly serious topics and terrible news to address now. And I appreciate the skilled columnists and humorists who are doing so. But in the words of Ross Gay, author of The Book of Delights, “Delight doesn’t truck with ought. Or should, for that matter.” See last week’s blog for why I’m so smitten with this book, which coordinates beautifully with what Dorothy Day, quoting Ruskin, called “the duty of delight.” Greg Boyle, SJ, in turn refers to Day’s sequel to The Long Loneliness: “This way will not pass again, and so there is a duty to be mindful of that which delights and keeps joy at the center, distilled from all that happens to us in a day” (Tattoos on the Heart, p. 148).
If Boyle, in the midst of grim poverty and Los Angeles gang wars, could keep such a clean focus on what lifts the spirits, it signals the rest of us. Or as Gay says, “the more stuff you love, the happier you’ll be.” And that stuff can be simple or silly, rarely dramatic or profound. As the Book of Proverbs says of Wisdom, “her ways are pleasant… and all her paths are peace” (3:17).
Many people now celebrate the exuberant color of July’s abundance in the garden. I was also touched by a burst of creativity from our local library. After arranging a contact-less pick-up of books ordered online, the website asked, “would you like a bag of picture books too?” Ever the eager grandmother, I of course ticked “yes.” What a delightful surprise to find waiting, at the precisely scheduled time, a bag designed to be colored and made into a house. The books within were carefully calibrated to what I’d checked out before, honoring the ages and interests of my grandchildren. AND it contained a package of sidewalk chalk for drawing in a contest encouraging the census. Piling into bed with a small grand-daughter and bingeing on books was another delight in that chain. In a messed-up society, a few rarities are true and good.
Of other delights: a hike along cliffs overlooking the ocean where the sense of time vanished. And a visit afterwards with a beloved daughter to Wildflour bakery in Sonoma County. The area is rightly famous for its wine and cheese, but we’ve found there the finest scones anywhere. What great happiness to drive with an armful of warm bread, nibbling a nectarine raspberry scone, past ripening apple orchards and fields of cows who seem to have strolled in from the ads for eating local.
I’ve laughed with friends at how something like a socially distanced happy hour at 5, which once would’ve been the PS of the day, has now become its centerpiece. Or the rare joy of finding a bookstore open, requiring masks and distance, but still almost like The Time Before. Quarantine may have forced us into the duty of delight, but by whatever path we arrive, it’s a fine place to be.